Riley Gets His Way with Fair Housing Ordinance

May 26, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The Nerve

Mayor Joe Riley did it again. At the Charleston City Council meeting earlier this month, he failed to stop the council from voting in favor of adopting a Fair Housing ordinance similar to that of U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

But at last week’s meeting, and the second reading of the proposed ordinance, he got his way.

Council members Michael S. Seekings and Aubry Alexander ended up reversing their earlier stances and voted against the measure. The final 7-5 vote was along racial lines, with all the African-American members voting for the ordinance, and being joined by Council member Timothy S. Mallard.

The discussion was on the proposed ordinance was opened by Seekings. He thought that the existing ordinance could be amended to do much of what the proposed ordinance would do; that the cost of implementing the new ordinance was hard to determine but could be costly to administer and enforce; and would triplicate the Fair Housing efforts in place, in effect adding the city’s to those of the state and federal.

Most of what followed was a rehash of what was heard at the previous council meeting.

Council member William Dudley Gregorie was the most vocal, denying that the city’s effort would triplicate efforts as the state was not involved. He also noted that HUD would pay significantly toward the cost of meeting the requirements of the new ordinance. And there were other HUD funds available that the City could apply for.

A reference was made to comments from the mayor on the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance and the need to give it more teeth. Riley was silent on the challenge.

The mayor continued his opposition, arguing for amending the existing ordinance and supporting for Trident Urban League in its efforts to educate citizens in respect to Fair Housing Laws. He thought that the money spent on meeting the requirements of the proposed ordinance would be better directed to affordable housing.

Alexander, who voted against the proposed ordinance but voted for it earlier, had previously noted that the state and federal agencies had done a “crappy job.” Council member Dean C. Riegel also registered anguish over making a decision as to how to vote.

Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.